Minister pledges £500,000 towards cross-governmental parks action group

Parks and green spaces minister Marcus Jones has launched a new Parks Action Group "to help England's public parks and green spaces meet the needs of communities now and in the future".

The new Parks Action Group will include experts from the world of horticulture, leisure, heritage and tourism, and will be tasked with bringing forward proposals to address some of the issues faced by public parks and other green spaces across England. To support them, Government is providing £500,000 funding to kick start their work.

The action group will propose what steps can be taken in line with the Government response to the recent House of Commons' Communities and Local Government Select Committee report into the future of parks and green spaces.

Parks and green spaces minister Marcus Jones said: "We recognise the value of parks and green spaces to local communities – including reducing loneliness, increasing wellbeing, and revitalising town and city centres.

"But we need to do more to make sure future generations are continuing to enjoy their benefits. That is why we have announced a new expert-led Parks Action Group to work closely with the sector to find the right solutions."

The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee Report: The Future of Public Parks published in February 2017, made 17 recommendations that are addressed in full in the Government’s response published today (19 September 2017).

The direction of the Parks Action Group will be determined by park sector experts in co-operation with officials from a number of government departments.  The Action Group will consider the recommendations from the Government’s response to the report and propose new projects and actions that will help our parks and green spaces thrive.

Parks and Green Spaces Minister Marcus Jones will chair the inaugural meeting.

The members of the Parks Action Group are:

  • Drew Bennellick, Head of Landscape & Natural Heritage UK, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
  • Matthew Bradbury, CEO, Parks Alliance
  • Graham Duxbury, CEO, Groundwork
  • Helen Griffiths, CEO, Fields In Trust
  • Ian Leete, Senior Advisor on Culture, Tourism and Sport, Local Government Association
  • Dave Morris, Chair, National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces
  • Paul O’Brien, CEO, Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE)
  • Ellie Robinson, Assistant Director, National Trust
  • Dave Solly, Natural England

The Government said that the Parks Action Group’s recommendations will be implemented through a cross-government group, something promised by the former parks minister Andrew Percy. The group will bring together the relevant government departments including Defra, the Department for Health, the Department for Education, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Home Office, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Department for Work and Pensions. 

Matthew Bradbury, Parks Alliance’s chief executive said: "Having been involved in lobbying for an inquiry, The Parks Alliance wholeheartedly welcomes the publication of the Minister's response to the Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into the Future of Public Parks and particularly the creation of a cross-governmental and sector supported, Parks Action Group. The Parks Alliance is very much looking forward to working with the Minister, Government and the wider sector to secure the future of public parks for the communities that they serve."

Research published today from the charity Fields in Trust shows that living close to and visiting parks and green spaces can increase people’s wellbeing and improve their health. The research also highlights the importance of parks as spaces for neighbours to socialise away, helping to reduce the risk of loneliness.

Helen Griffiths, chief executive Fields in Trust said: "I welcome the Ministers response to the CLG Parliamentary Committee and Fields in Trust’s appointment to the newly established "Parks Action Group" at this pivotal moment for the future of parks and green spaces.

"Our ongoing research recognises how these spaces help to address significant public policy issues including health and wellbeing and community integration. We are looking forward to furthering our work with colleagues across the sector to ensure that we value parks and green spaces and take account of the vital contribution they make to local communities."

Graham Duxbury, chief executive of Groundwork, said: "Making sure that all communities and all sections of society are able to enjoy the benefits of good green spaces is vital.  Joining a local group can help young people develop their skills and older people overcome loneliness.  Well managed green spaces can also help whole neighbourhoods cope with the costly impacts of climate change. We look forward to helping the action group unlock more practical support so that local communities and local authorities can maximise these social and economic benefits."

Ellie Robinson, head of urban greenspace at the National Trust, said: "We welcome the Minister’s commitment to set up and lead a Parks Action Group. It’s an important first step to coordinating the urgent action needed to secure great parks and greenspaces for communities across our cities and towns. We’re looking for the Government to show real ambition and energy, helping to bring new investment and ideas to protect and enhance parks for generations to come. The National Trust is committed to playing its part both as a member of the Group and through our collaborative work to develop practical solutions with Councils, local people and other partners."

In December 2015, the Government published the ‘Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation’ which set out the importance of sport and physical activity. The first annual report on the implementation of ‘Sporting Future’ was published with a specific focus on the themes of central government, local government and outdoor recreation.

In February 2016 the government awarded over £1million to improve 87 small pockets of unloved, undeveloped or derelict land to transform them into 87 green spaces. The government has announced that is to continue the Green Flag Awards license for making sure that Britain’s best parks and green spaces will continue to be recognised for another 5 years. 

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